Government plan to remove the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is out of step with young Conservative voters

Date Posted: Thursday 26th August 2021

Latest polling shows that 58% of Conservative voters want to see investment in the Social Security system.

Research carried out by Survation for six women’s organisations: Close the GapEngenderFawcett SocietyNorthern Ireland Women’s Budget Group,  Women’s Budget Group, and Women’s Equality Network Wales  highlights the overwhelming support from young people (aged 18-30) for the Government to invest in social infrastructure. Access the research here

  • 69% of Conservative voters and 73% of Labour want to see early education and childcare better funded.
  • 65% of Conservative voters and 75% of Labour voters want investment in free social care for older people and disabled people.
  • 62% of Conservative voters and 67% of Labour voters support investment in green initiatives towards a zero-carbon economy.
  • 73% of Conservative and 77% of Labour voters support investment in affordable housing and security for renters.

The overwhelming support from young people for the Government to invest in social infrastructure comes after a substantial proportion of young people expressed concern about the security of their job when the furlough scheme ends in September and their future prospects.

  • More than 1 in 4 (28%) young people are worried they will lose their job
  • 1 in 3 (32%) are worried their hours will be reduced.
  • 2 out of 5 (39%) are worried they will not be able to find another job in their current work area.
  • Half (51%) of young people are concerned that if they do lose their job, benefits will not cover their essential costs.

Young women in particular have  been significantly impacted by the pandemic

More than 1 in 2 young women (54%) said their mental health had gotten      worse, compared to 42% of young men.

  • Young women (16%) were twice as likely as young men (8%) to say their financial situation had got ‘a lot worse’.
  • 30% of young women are worried their hours will be reduced when the furlough scheme ends in September.
  • 26% of young women are worried they will lose their job when the furlough scheme ends in September.

Dr Sara Reis, Head of Research and Policy at Women’s Budget Group, said:

“The £20 uplift to Universal Credit has been keeping many people financially afloat since it was introduced at the start of the pandemic. The economic effects of the pandemic are far from over and cutting UC now would have a devastating impact on the lives of many including young people who are facing an uncertain economic future. Our polling highlights the overwhelming support particularly from young voters, including Conservative voters for investment  in a social security system that is a true safety net. Behind this support is a high number of young people who the £20 uplift has been a lifeline for and are now facing the possibility of hardship and adversity,  juggling rent and utility bills with the costs of food and clothing. Investing in a better Social Security system would have benefits across the economy and be truly transformative for millions of young people and families in line with the Government’s levelling-up agenda.”

Felicia Willow, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

“This government has overlooked the needs of women throughout the pandemic but it’s heartening to see that voters haven’t. COVID has hit women hard, and this research shows us that young women are twice as likely as young men to have lost out financially. With the furlough scheme ending and the £20 uplift being stopped, many young people expect things to get worse over the next 12 months. But it’s not just about finances, half of young women say their mental health has declined – this simply can’t be ignored. We need this government to pay proper attention to how its polices affect women and it’s clear that all young voters want to see investment in the future.”

Eilidh Dickson, Policy and Parliamentary Manager at Engender, said:

“It is clear that young women in Scotland and across the UK have seen life get much harder during the pandemic. More than two-fifths of young women in Scotland say their financial situation has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic, and report that there are now fewer work and education opportunities available to them. Decision-makers must take urgent actions to protect young women’s jobs, incomes, and mental health, including maintaining the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and investing in a care economy.”

Anna Ritchie Allan, Executive Director of Close the Gap, said:

“These findings underscore the devastating effect of the pandemic on young women’s employment, their financial security and mental health. Covid-19 has worsened young women’s labour market inequality and our polling shows that young women are rightly concerned about their financial situation longer-term. A quarter of young women are worried about losing their job, and a third are worried that their hours will be cut. Covid-19 is pushing young women into further and deeper financial precarity, and the Scottish and UK Governments must take substantive action now to protect young women from a rising tide of poverty.”

Catherine Fookes, Director of Women’s Equality Network Wales, said:

“We want to see a green and caring recovery from Covid, and it’s clear from our polling that there is widespread agreement from young voters across the political spectrum that the Government must invest in social infrastructure – childcare, education, social care, housing, green initiatives. The Government’s plans to get rid of the Universal Credit uplift, which has been a lifeline for many, are out of step with voters’ priorities and threaten to exacerbate the already devastating impact the pandemic has had on the financial security and mental health of young women in particular.”

Alexandra Brennan, Coordinator at Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group (NIWBG), said:

“Immediate action needs to be taken to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. It is clear from the recent polling that many young people, especially young women, are facing financial uncertainty and permanence of the £20 uplift is essential to providing greater security. The pandemic is not over, and financial repercussions of the economic crisis will be felt for long after if support is not maintained.  As well, there is ample support from across the political spectrum to keep the £20 uplift. For the long term, the recovery plan and subsequent policies aimed at mitigating the consequences of the current crisis need to be centred in a caring, green economy that aims to protect and support those who are most vulnerable.”

Caroline Bernard, Director of Communications at Young Women’s Trust said: 

‘Young women have been left to pick up the pieces during the pandemic, juggling insecure work, caring responsibilities and loss of income. As we approach the autumn, they face enduring even more as the government scraps both the furlough scheme and the uplift to Universal Credit. Young women have told us how much of a difference these measures have made to their lives and how important they are in the face of an uncertain future. This polling shows that young voters from across the political spectrum want to see better support in place and the government must listen to their voices.’

Rebecca Graham from the Standard Life Foundation said:

‘There has been a lot of talk from Government about building back better, but these results show that young people are not confident that the talk is being translated into real progress. It is time for some real action towards equality which must be based upon the voices, skills, and experiences of those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.  We know that the £20 uplift in Universal Credit has been a lifeline to many – reinstating this would be one small step towards better.’

Together, we’re calling for:

Stronger safety net: This pandemic has highlighted the importance of social security for alleviating and preventing poverty, and the current research shows that there is strong support for this among young people from across the political spectrum. This runs counter to the recent decision to remove the £20 per week uplift to UC and we strongly urge the government to not only reconsider this, but also to further increase support for low-income families and unemployed people.

Sectoral support: A significant proportion of young people in our survey were concerned about losing their job, or hours being cut, when the furlough scheme ends in September. It is vital that the post-COVID recovery includes support for hardest-hit sectors such as retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism, which are important employers of women and young people. Such measures should be joined up with the transition to a zero-carbon economy as well as with those that seek to address regional inequalities.

Investment in care: Urgent funding is required for the early years sector to avoid widespread closures that would have a huge impact on women’ employment as well as to ensure that social care for the elderly and people with disabilities is properly resourced. Both measures would reduce the burden of unpaid caring, which continues to disproportionately fall to women and has intensified during the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of young people in our survey supported greater investment in care.

More representation: To ensure policy addresses diverse needs within society, government needs to include more women at the decision-making table as well as other key stakeholders, such as young people and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Notes on methodology:

Our research is drawn from data collected by Survation with fieldwork conducted 3rd  June to 4th June 2021. The survey was conducted via an online panel. Invitations to complete surveys were sent out to members of online panels. The UK-wide statistics cited in this briefing are drawn from a nationally representative sample of 1,026 adults in the UK aged 18 to 30 and over.

Press office contacts:

Women’s Budget Group

Dr Sara Reis: / 07754329455/ Head of Research and Policy

Thaira Mhearban: 077366 58951/ Communications Officer

Fawcett Society

For further information, please contact:

Fresh Communication/ 0117 369 0025

Nathalie Golden: / 07769 66 66 27

Lisa Sutherland: / 07801 97 99 87


Alys Mumford: 07889805785/ Communications & Engagement Manager

Close the Gap

Anna Ritchie Allan: 07711 926 833/ Executive Director

Women’s Equality Network Wales

Catherine Fookes: 07511 939235/

Megan Evans: 07716 433192/

Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group

Alexandra Brennan: Coordinator/

Young Women’s Trust 07495 981142

Standard Life Foundation

This study was funded by Standard Life Foundation. The Foundation funds research, policy work and campaigning activities to tackle financial problems and improve living standards for people on low-to-middle incomes in the UK. It is an independent charitable foundation registered in Scotland.

Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust

This study was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT). Responding to the growing crisis of democracy and erosion of trust in the political class and institutions, JRRT’s priority area of work for both grant-making and external activities is democratic and political reform.

About us

Close the Gap has almost two decades’ experience of working with policymakers, employers, and unions on women and work. They are experts on the barriers which affect women’s participation in Scotland’s labour market.

Engender is a policy organisation and through their research and analysis they aim to make women’s inequality visible and persuade those with power to make positive changes to services, policy, regulation, practices, and laws that negatively affect women.

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. Our vision is a society in which women and girls in all their diversity are equal and truly free to fulfil their potential creating a stronger, happier, better future for us all.

The Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group is an independent network that analyses economic policy in Northern Ireland to understand  its impact on women and men and promotes alternatives for a gender equal economy.

The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) is an independent network of leading academic researchers, policy experts and campaigners that analyses economic policy for its impact on women and men and promotes alternatives for a gender equal economy. Our work on coronavirus can be accessed at:

The Women’s Equality Network Wales work with a vibrant coalition of organisational and individual members to transform society – They believe that no one organisation alone can deliver equality. Their work sits under three pillars. They work to Connect, Campaign and Champion women so their vision of a world where men and women have equal authority and opportunity is realised.